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2021 Draft Preview No. 3: Sinister Youth

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Three high school lefthanders, scouted for your edification and enjoyment.

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Howdy, y’all. Big team is on a roll with the Mets coming to town, and we’ve got three high school lefties to talk about for July. Let’s not prolong the suspense any more than necessary.

Josh Hartle, LHP, Reagan HS (NC)

6’5”, 195 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 24th March 2003

So, what’s so great about this guy?

There’s a lot to like about Josh Hartle, who has only really begun to scratch the surface of his potential at this point. He’s still mostly projection rather than present stuff, but even the present is good, and that projection has started to show up this spring for the big lefty from the Crockett territory.

Hartle works from a low-3/4 arm slot, which gives his pitches remarkable movement, and a little deception to boot. His fastball isn’t blazing fast, at 89-92, but he throws it without a ton of effort and it has excellent tailing action. He also uses his 6’5” frame to get above-average extension out front, making the pitch seem faster than it actually is. That little boost in perceived velocity, along with some natural wiggle to all his pitches, makes the heater very effective already, even without exceptional velocity.

His best offspeed pitch at the moment is a surprisingly well developed changeup that features outstanding armside run and good depth when he stays on top of the pitch. His arm slot makes him tough on left-handed hitters, and the changeup is good enough to combat righties effectively. He also sells the changeup with his arm speed much better than most pitchers of his age/experience level.

Hartle’s third pitch is a widescreen breaking ball, closer to a slider than a curve, but that doesn’t really have ideal power and sharpness yet. When Hartle stays on top of the pitch and throws it with conviction, it’s a real weapon, but the arm slot means he gets around and under the pitch too often, and it can get big and lazy when he does. I don’t think it’s a long-term concern; we see plenty of pitchers with lower arm slots master their breaking balls, from Chris Sale to Max Scherzer, but for now it’s the biggest question mark — and limiting factor — in Hartle’s arsenal.

What’s really exciting about Hartle is how advanced his feel for pitching already is, and how much room left he has to develop physically. Projection can often be overstated, but in this case I don’t think it is. On a couple of occasions last summer Hartle was clocked as high as 96 with his fastball, and while that’s not at all where he typically pitches, in five years it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him at 6’5” and 220 instead of 195, and probably sitting 92-96 with that same extension and movement on his pitches. How well he tightens and hones his breaking ball will go a long way toward determining his ceiling, but guys with this kind of feel for pitching and future projection at 18 don’t come around every day. Hartle nearly snuck into my favourites group for pitching as I was initially looking over this draft class a couple months ago — he looked very good at the PG All-American last August — and while it’s tough to say he’s definitely a first round draft pick at this point, he definitely has the ceiling of one.

via 2080 Baseball:

Gage Jump, LHP, JSerra HS (CA)

5’10”, 175 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 12th April 2003

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I said a moment ago that high school pitchers with feel and projection to match those of Josh Hartle don’t come around very often. Well, high school pitchers with the feel and present stuff of Gage Jump almost never come around, and it’s only the fact he doesn’t have a whole lot of physical projection left that limits his draft stock.

Jump feels much more like an undersized college lefty than a high school pitching project, as he already has command of three pitches with some feel for a fourth, not to mention a deceptive delivery that helps him sneak a good but not great fastball by hitters. He works around 90-92 with his heater, with good spin and carry, and tops out at 94 a handful of times a game. What’s really special about his fastball is how well he commands it, and how well he hides the baseball with his delivery. He has a very short arm circle, keeps the ball behind him until very late, and jumps at hitters aggressively as he releases the pitch. The result is tremendous deception on all his pitches, but the fastball in particular seems to just come out of nowhere, and hitters are consistently late even when he’s just working at 91. Danny Duffy of the Royals was always one of the more deceptive pitchers I can ever recall seeing in terms of hiding his fastball, and Jump reminds me of him quite a bit.

To complement the fastball, Jump features a very good overhand curve he locates well and throws with excellent spin and shape, and a solid-average changeup he sells with excellent arm speed but doesn’t always get great movement on. The deception is there already, but I could see Jump or his future organisation fiddling with the grip on the change to try and improve the action on the pitch. Even as it is, though, the changeup is already very strong for a high schooler, and should be effective long term. The curve is his best overall offspeed offering, and could very well grade out at 55-60 when it’s all said and done. He can throw it in or out of the strike zone, and it pairs very well with his four-seamer, especially when he’s working it up rather than down.

There’s also a slider here, but it’s less developed than his other pitches, and tends to act like a bad curveball about half the time. Long term I would think Jump might try to tighten the slider up into a cutter and use it to attack right-handed hitters inside, rather than trying to keep two breaking balls separate, when one of them just doesn’t look to be worth the effort.

Now let’s talk about the bad stuff. Or, at least, the stuff that limits Jump’s upside as a draft prospect.

Gage Jump is short. That’s pretty much it. He’s not 6’5” and lanky; he’s 5’10” and pretty well filled out already. Any velocity gains Jump might make down the road will have to come as a result of training or mechanical changes, which could very well be risky for the health of his arm. A guy like Hartle can just naturally add 30 pounds over the next few years and expect to gain 3-5 mph on his fastball without having to train specifically for that, whereas Jump does not have that luxury. He could probably get a little bigger and stronger, yes, maybe add ten pounds, but he’s not going to easily add a huge amount of strength to his frame. If Gage Jump were three inches taller or threw three miles an hour harder, he might be a top fifteen pick in July. He’s not, though, and he doesn’t, so it’s going to be a question whether he ends up in the top 50 or more in the 50-100 range, I think. His delivery is not as risky as that of Rob Kaminsky back when the Cardinals drafted him, but the overall profile is not all that dissimilar.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Brock Selvidge, LHP, Hamilton HS (AZ)

6’3”, 205 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Left

DOB: 28th August 2002

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I’m a big fan of both the previous two pitchers I’ve covered here today, but I admit I’m a little more back and forth on Selvidge. On the one hand, I have concerns about his delivery, as I don’t think he gets nearly enough from his legs and the arm tends to get up late, not to mention he sometimes fails to finish out front well and loses his command up and to the arm side. On the other hand, if you’re looking for the best pure left-handed power pitcher prospect in this draft, it would be a tossup for me between Maddux Bruns and Selvidge, with Selvidge having far fewer issues with mechanics and control than Bruns at present.

Selvidge’s repertoire really revolves around his fastball, which is mostly fine, because it is a fastball with a chance to be special. He can push it up to 96 already, and it actually features some natural cutting action at times. He sits more in the low 90s, but there’s room still for growth, and I think at maturity this is a guy who sits 94-96 and can push the upper 90s without having to overthrow. As I said, I also think there’s more Selvidge could get from his delivery by utilising his lower half more aggressively; sit him down in front of a television playing David Price clips for a few hours (Clockwork Orange eyelid clips are optional), and see if that doesn’t bump him a couple miles an hour. Regardless, Selvidge creates easy velocity and his fastball has good movement on it, and hitters just generally don’t seem to have much luck against the pitch.

Which is a good thing, because the rest of Selvidge’s arsenal is much less advanced right now. His slider is his best secondary pitch, and it has moments, but Selvidge doesn’t always throw it with real conviction, and when he does he tends to spike it rather than risk leaving it over the plate. Every fourth slider he throws, though, will come in with mid-80s velocity and real tilt, and it’s easy to see the outline of a dominant one-two punch. The pitch just needs work.

Beyond the slider, Selvidge throws a changeup and curve, neither of which he has used all that often. The changeup will need lots of work, the curve should probably just be scrapped. In other words, as exciting as Selvidge’s upside is, he is still very much a high school pitcher, and a relatively unpolished one at that. His long term ceiling could be extremely high, and he’s committed to LSU, a commitment I would place at about a coin toss to see honoured. Teams will definitely be interested in Selvidge come draft day, but I think there’s a pretty decent chance he ends up going to college and turning into a top ten pick three years from now.

via Keanan Lamb: